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Tooele • The Tooele County Commission has hired Utah Motorsports Campus Inc. to operate Miller Motorsports Park in a move designed to keep the racetrack open and conduct a 2016 season while a legal battle over its sale continues.

The one-year agreement, which was announced Friday, does not bind the county to selling the 511-acre property to Mitime Investment Group, the Chinese-based parent company of Utah Motorsports Campus.

Instead, the deal allows the county to prevent the facility from sitting vacant and losing value — probably over a period of several months — while new ownership is established.

"We are taking over a facility that has been closed and, basically, stripped of assets," said Mitime Utah president Alan Wilson. "We will get it up and going … until it is sold to somebody, even though that won't necessarily be us."

According to Wilson, Mitime will once again bid on the property. He also expects Center Point Management, a Wyoming-based real estate development company, will also bid.

Last summer, Tooele County announced it would sell Miller Motorsports Park to Mitime for $20 million and the promise of substantial future investment in the property. Center Point Management had offered $22.5 million, presumably to turn the property into a real estate development.

After the initial sale, Center Point filed suit and claimed the terms of the deal violated local and state law, which prohibits the sale of county-owned land "for anything less than full and an adequate consideration."

In December, Third District Court judge Robert Adkins agreed with Center Point Management and blocked the sale.

Because of the judge's ruling, the process of selling the property will begin again and, according to Wilson, could take six or eight months. That time-frame would have ended any hope of holding a 2016 racing season.

"The county had choices," Wilson said. "They could have shuttered the facility, which I don't believe was ever an option because it would have cost tax dollars, put hundreds of people out of work and had a significant negative impact on the county."

Tooele County could have also tried operating the facility on its own, although it lacks qualified personnel and the money to do so, Wilson said.

The final option for the county was hiring — under severe time constraints — a company capable of managing the operation, Wilson said.

It is the option Tooele County picked.

Commissioner Shawn Milne said, "[We are] confident in our choice. This interim solution provides the greatest assurance of a successful 2016 season and a positive impact to our local community.

"The Tooele County Commission has been consistent since Day 1. Our greatest motivator has been the preservation of local jobs and the continuation of the facility as a world-class racing venue."

Milne called the track "a valuable economic asset for our community. It is a crown jewel for us, the state of Utah and the North American racing industry. Tooele County desires to keep Larry Miller's vision for racing in Utah alive through the continued success of the facility."

Sponsorships and the scheduling events for this coming season have already been hindered by the legal battle over Miller Motorsports Park ownership, Wilson said. But he will start work on Jan. 25 to insure a quality product can be provided.

"Nobody else put in a bid to manage the property," Wilson said, "so the county has a legal right to do this. We are specialists. We have people and the resources in place to do this job. But we made sure there is nothing [in the contract] that could damage the county or make the county obliged to sell to us. … We are minimizing the county's need to spend money. We are taking a huge risk."

Twitter: @sluhm —

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• Tooele County has hired Utah Motorsports Campus Inc., to manage Miller Motorsports Park while the legal battle over ownership continues.

• A district court judge blocked the county's sale of the 511-acre property to Mitime Investment Group, the parent company of Utah Motorsports Campus.

• The sale process has been reopened and could takes months to complete. In the meantime, Utah Motorsports Campus plans to operate a 2016 racing season.